Friday, May 05, 2006

Dreams of the Compass Rose by Vera Nazarian

Nazarian realizes a spectacularly fantastic world in Dreams of the Compass Rose, her first novel (she has since published Lords of the Rainbow and several collections of short fiction). In many ways, this novel reads like an epic poem, and the language can only be described as, well, poetic. Descriptions are beautiful and fully realized as the mystique of her world seeps from the pages.

The novel is more of a collection of 14 short stories, yet all are related somehow, with overlapping people and places, if not necessarily time. Time is fluid; Nazarian’s ‘dreams’ leap back and forth through thousands of years of history of this great world. At times it’s hard to determine when and where the story occurred, but the story’s prose quickly entraps you, leaving issues such as these unimportant.

The story opens with a Grandmother telling her granddaughter of the mythical land, Amarantea. The sequence of dreams moves forward (and backward) from their as our granddaughter grows up to seek Amarantea. We follow the eccentric captain of an unsinkable ship on a journey with a young sorcerer. We witness ancient betrayal and slaughter and the birth of a new God. A young child pledges service to a cold princess. The tales are wonderfully told of great deserts, oases, steppes, oceans, devine interventions, and people of the Compass Rose.

Poetic prose aside, Dreams of the Compass Rose suffers at times from the directionless aspect of the tale. There is no central narrative to bind the tales to one another. Her enthralling story telling does not completely abate this.

The stories are strikingly human in nature and dominated by short-comings and illusion. However, weighty thematic play does not rear up in these stories. Their greatest value is in the realization of a skilled wordsmith. Nazarian is sadly overlooked talent and potential – fans of SF should line up to read her work.

So, on my 10-point rating scale (fully described here), Dreams of the Compass Rose rates a 7. Nazarian deserves more attention. Go forth and read.

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